Novak Djokovic defeated Roberto Carballés Baena

Novak Djokovic defeated Roberto Carballés Baena

Novak Djokovic 20-time Grand Slam champion defeated Roberto Carballés Baena in straight sets, in the second round of the French Open, but he played cautiously

Despite showing glimmers of his customary domination in his 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory, Djokovic talked down his hopes of winning the title, pointing to a lack of form lately.

This methodical approach is consistent with his remarks made prior to the event. Amidst a lackluster run-up to Roland Garros, Djokovic freely acknowledged that he had “high hopes and low expectations.” Even yet, he acknowledged that he wasn’t the favorite. This is rather different from his customary confidence and suggests that he is genuinely concerned about his ability to compete on clay.

But his performance in the match against Carballés Baena seems to indicate otherwise. With his strong groundstrokes that proved too much for the Spaniard, Djokovic took control of the contest from the start. In his debut encounter against Pierre-Hugues Herbert, he showed flashes of brilliance, especially in his clutch play during the second-set tie-break. 

Which raises the question: is Djokovic genuinely concerned about this or is he just strategically downplaying his chances?

Both arguments have some validity. With just two French Open championships to his résumé compared to an incredible nine Australian Open crowns, clay has historically been Djokovic’s least successful surface. Moreover, he lost in the Geneva Open semifinals right before Roland Garros as a result of his recent troubles on the clay circuit.

However, Djokovic is an expert at the mental game. He may be relieving pressure and fostering an atmosphere where anything short of a long run would be considered a success by controlling expectations. This might allow him to play more freely and possibly return to his best on clay.

Moreover, Djokovic’s competitive spirit has not wavered. David Goffin, who expressed his displeasure with disorderly fan conduct in Paris, had his support. This implies that Djokovic is still very hungry for the win, and the partisan Parisian audience may even provide him with more motivation to disprove his detractors.

In the end, only time will tell if Djokovic’s cautious game is a ruse or a true reflection of his form right now. But one thing is certain: you can always count on Djokovic to perform well under pressure. The tennis world will be closely following him, despite his self-imposed low expectations, to see if he can add another French Open championship to his already impressive trophy collection.